Jack answered for her. “Obviously, your mother never needed to search for the Infinityglass. But she did need the thing that allowed the Infinityglass to transfer abilities.”
I made it as far as one knee and one foot on the floor. “I don’t believe for one second that Lily would help you find it.”
“Lily didn’t know. Still doesn’t. We made her think it was a simple location test, so I didn’t even have to wipe her memory. Tell me.” Jack leaned over conspiratorially. “Does Emerson like you? I hope she does. She’s already so fractured. If she’s formed an attachment, erasing you from her mind will take her one step closer to where I need her.”
His eyes held a sick elation. I wondered how someone could be happy about causing so much pain, and then I thought about the things Jack had done to Emerson. Changed her time line, erased her memories. Her words came back to punch me in the solar plexus.
“Nothing like owing your life to a madman.”
If Jack kept going, would he rob her of the happiness she had now? Would she end up mindless and empty, too?
Jack was too pleased with the sound of his own voice to shut up for long. “Dune will be harder. He loves you, and that just makes it all the more tragic. Because if he or your father gives us trouble, we’ll take care of them the same way we took care of Gerald Turner.”
Even though I was still on the floor, I lost my equilibrium. I put my palms flat as my vision blurred. When it cleared, I stared up at my mother. Not an ounce of emotion crossed her face.
“How is it that you haven’t given Jack ‘trouble’?” I asked. “Why hasn’t he taken your memories?”
“I know how to block him. He’s the one who taught me how, back when we were both in Memphis.”
Jack looked like he regretted the choice.
“Too bad she didn’t learn the trick.” I gestured to the woman beside Jack. “Whoever she is.”
“I’ll introduce you.” He took my arm and hauled me to my feet. “Cat, you’re being rude. Shake hands with Hallie.”
Cat stared at Jack for a long moment.
He nodded, and she made a grab for my hand.
My very bones vibrated the second she touched me. Time slowed down, my body roaring as if an electrical fire burned under my skin. Something that felt like a rectangular piece of metal branded the skin below my collarbone.
“Let go,” I screamed over the sound of the wind in my ears and tried to jerk my arms free, but got nowhere. “Let me go.…”
Cat’s mouth formed an O shape as her skin tightened on her already skeletal face. I was draining her energy. I felt it flowing through me. To Jack. His hand was still on my arm.
All the noise and activity dissipated in a rush. I hit the ground again.
A mere husk of the woman lay crumpled in a heap. Aftershocks of power surged through me, but I ignored them and put my fingertips on her throat, searching. She looked like an addict who’d taken things too far. Desperate, starving, ruined.
Jack held a spinning purple sphere in his hands. It gave off a crazy, glowing light, and crackled with electricity, just as I had thirty seconds ago. I’d seen Poe with something similar. Exotic matter.
“It worked,” Jack crowed, mesmerized. “She transferred Cat’s ability to me.”
Whether Cat had been willing or not, she’d overdosed on Jack Landers and his ability to take away pain. He had been her illicit drug.
I looked at the dead body beside me and wondered if he was about to make me his next addict.
I hadn’t underestimated the power of the Mississippi. Muddy, churning, and teeming with life, the current pulsed strong and willful. The closer I got to its banks, the more it pulled at me. Regulating my intake of air was the first step to maintaining control, the second, exhaling.
The desire to see what I could do was powerful, flowing through my veins faster than my blood. The desire to keep Hallie alive was stronger.
The cab dropped me off just below the Port of New Orleans, and I followed the coordinates Lily had texted me. They led to a docked riverboat. I could see Hallie lying on the deck. Jack Landers stood beside her, holding a spinning ball of exotic matter in his hands.
The loading dock was at the other end of the boat. I approached it at a run, slowing down as I crossed it, and only then to soften the sound of my footsteps.
Fast as a snap, Jack lost twenty years. His pale hair brightened to blond, and his skin glowed with color. His cane hit the ground, and he left it where it fell.
“Exotic matter. First step, complete.” Jack tossed the light up, and then mimicked hitting it with a bat. It shot out like a home run, highlighting a veil behind him.
Mother waved to a couple of men by the paddle wheel and gestured for them to pull in the loading dock. No one could get on or off the boat without it, even though we were still tethered to shore, which meant I was on my own.
“You have what you wanted,” she said. “I’m sure it’s all you hoped for.”
My stomach roiled with the consequences. We’d known the Infinityglass could possibly transfer powers between people with time-related abilities, but we’d focused on dealing with the rips.
“It’s all we hoped for,” Jack said.
I started a slow crab walk backward. Jack was beside me in seconds, hauling me up by the arm. “You aren’t going anywhere.”
“Don’t make me do that again.” I felt like crying, but I didn’t want to show Jack an ounce of weakness. “I won’t.”
“You will, because that’s your purpose.” He steered me to a bench by the ship’s railing. “I have records. Years of information about people with time-related abilities. You’re just one of the tools I need to possess them all.”
“One of the tools we need,” Teague said, the mocking tone slight, but present. “Right, Jack?”
“What are the others?” I asked.
She pointed to my neck. I reached up to find the pendant I’d noticed her wearing in Audubon Park.
“There’s nothing standing in the way now. We have everything we need,” Jack said, beaming at my mother.
My mother smiled in return. Jack didn’t know her well enough to understand what a smile like that meant, but I did.
“Not everything. You’ve forgotten something very important, Jack.”
“I didn’t forget—” He faltered, sensing something amiss in her expression. “But … I helped you find the pendant.”
“You participated, but you didn’t discover what activates an Infinityglass, and if you remember, that was part of our deal.”
“I can still find out. We have endless resources now, and a way to use them, thanks to you.” As he tried to wheedle his way into her good graces, I wondered how long she’d had him whipped.
“Maybe I already know.” Her words slipped over me like cold silk. “But if you ever do, you’ll have a weapon to use against me. One I can’t block.”
She waited. Let it sink in. Everything about his demeanor proved he hadn’t anticipated the double cross. Then she made her move.
The amount of energy Mom pulled from him was double what I’d experienced when Jack had used me to drain Cat. I was now transferring two abilities, his and Cat’s, to my mother’s body. The current ran through me again, and the same pain seared my skin under the pendant. In addition to the burst of electricity, flashes of memory crowded my brain: a crying girl, with auburn hair and brown eyes; Poe, with a knife to his throat; a little boy, running into the path of a car.